Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sales Pitch

I read a lot of diet and exercise books. I read them both for my own benefit (I learn something from every one, even if it's "Don't do this.") and for this site.

The one part of these books I dislike the most is the Sales Pitch. Pretty much every diet book and exercise book has one of these.

What's a Sales Pitch? The Sales Pitch is that section of the book where the author(s) try to convince you to do the program.

Good Pitch or Bad? A Sales Pitch isn't always a bad thing. A short section in a book to give you the elevator pitch version of the program is fine. Explaining why you might find this approach beneficial is fine. Some very good books have this - Eric Cressey's Maximum Strength has a Sales Pitch, explaining why you might want to train for performance instead of using a more common appearance-centered program. Done well, this Sales Pitch shows you why the alternative presented to you is potentially useful to you.

Not many look like this.

Some have a bad pitch - the awful Sly Moves basically inaccurately characterizes everything else and then gives you their program as the only alternative to disaster.

Many more use the One True Program approach. You'll recognize this one the moment you see it. This approach says that no other program could get you results. If the program advocates high carbs, it'll explain why low carb program will never work. If it advocates high-rep training, it'll explain why low reps are dangerous and unproductive. If it centers on machines, it'll explain why free weights are dangerous. And so on. The One True Program approach dismisses anything that isn't in the program as unnecessary, counterproductive, dangerous, useless, or just plain ridiculous. You'll often see strawman arguments against other programs - they'll exaggerate one aspect to a ridiculous degree, imply or cite claims the other programs don't actually make, and then attack those claims.

Some books take a more middle-of-the-road approach. Instead of the One True Program or suggesting an alternative, they make the assumption they've already got you. You wouldn't have picked up a diet book if you didn't want to diet; you wouldn't have picked up a book on a radically different program if you were making great progress with your current program.

Common features of the Sales Pitch Here are a few common things you'll find in the sales pitch.

Be The Same - this part of the pitch tells you that people like you (yes, just like you!) did this program exactly as prescribed and then succeeded. You should be like them if you want the same results as them.

Be Different - the pitch almost always features a few sentences (or a few pages!) that push you to do the program in order to be different. You don't want to train like "everyone else" at the gym. This can be true - you certainly don't want to train like people who aren't making progress and don't have specific goals, and gyms are full of them. But this feature pushes the "be different and unique" approach. Do this program and you'll be different from everyone else (in other words, those poor fools!) You know, just like everyone else doing the same, different program as you. You must be the same as the right people and different from the wrong people.

Those Fools! - This is the section where other programs are held up to criticism, as discussed above. The thing to watch for here is, are they accurately describing those programs? If you don't know, go find out. It's possible to accurately describe a different approach and then explain why this approach will meet your goals better. It's also possible to inaccurately describe a different approach. Do the authors climb up their own ladder, or try to get you by knocking out the rungs of the other approachs' ladders? It's "do this, it works best for your goals" vs. "do this, because everything else is wrong."

Testimonials - These are very common. They'll feature other people's results on the program. These are often boxed-out with before-and-after photos. These will heavily feature the type of person the book is aimed at. Obviously, they'll cherry-pick the people who stuck with the program and succeeded. Successful fat loss stories in diet books, successful strength gains in strength books, and so on. The age and demographic will also look like the target audience - older folks who did the program, younger folks, busy people, athletes, etc. You can tell a lot about who the author is talking to by seeing who they feature as the epitome of success.
Things to watch for in these are:
- are the testimonials from people getting hands-on coaching by the author(s)? If so, are there any from people who just read the book and did it on their own? You're not getting hands-on coaching from the author, so look for testimonials from people who didn't get that either.
- do they feature before statistics? If Mary dropped to 15% body fat and ran a marathon, what was she like before that? If Charles benched 10 x 315 after this program, what could he bench before? It's one thing if he was benching 1 x 225, it's another if he was benching 8 x 315. Check to see if the numbers being compared are apples and apples, or apples and oranges. If Mary couldn't walk a mile without pain and then ran a marathon with nary a twinge, that's apples to apples. If she didn't exercise at all and then ran one, well, at the start even she didn't know if she could do it, so we can't tell if the program was the difference or if any exercise would have done.

How do you avoid getting sucked in with the Sales Pitch? First, just be aware of it. Know that is what is going on. Testimonials, results listings, and a case for doing the program are fine. They're almost necessary - would you try an untested program? But don't get too caught up in them. They aren't you. Second, read, read, read. Don't just read the one approach, check out alternatives. Third, ask "why?" Why is this the best program? Why would you do this in order to reach your goals (You have goals, right?) Why would this work better than what you do now?

Again, the Sales Pitch isn't always bad. It's often well-done and makes a convincing case for why you should try this program. They often explain things you didn't know otherwise, and show you how it can be done. The program in the book could be exactly the approach you need. It might contain information that'll benefit you immensely. But know when the authors are trying to sell you something, so you can get past the pitch and examine what you're actually buying into.

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